Battle Of The Triplets – DBS LiveFresh vs OCBC FRANK vs UOB EVOL

The lie of the land thus far: it’s December 2020, a vacationless year-end where miles are as useful as JEM vouchers in late May 2021, and OCBC decides to breathe new life into OCBC FRANK. DBS LiveFresh is dethroned, and OCBC FRANK stands supreme with a sleek modern card design that is as useless as it is pretty, for it only gives 6% cashback when used on a smartphone. May 2021 rolls around, and UOB decides to double down on cashback cards by first releasing the UOB Absolute, then improving their UOB YOLO card in every manner but name. The UOB EVOL has landed and nobody knows what the name means.

Showdown

The three cards will inevitably be compared with each other given their similarities:

DBS LiveFreshOCBC FRANKUOB EVOLWinner
Realistic earn rate5%6%6.67%EVOL
Suboptimal earn rate3.33%4.17%3.33%FRANK
Minimum spend$600$600$600Draw
Realistic maximum cashback$40 to $55$50$40FRANK
Spend to hit maximum cashback$800$833.33$600EVOL
Mobile paymentCard and phonePhone onlyPhone onlyDBS
Online paymentQuite extensive exclusionsLooks alrightLooks alrightFRANK, maybe EVOL too
TrackingTransaction datePosting datePosting dateDBS, mostly
Spend promosGreat (in 2020)FairPoorDBS/FRANK

Comparison

Realistic earn rate
This says realistic earn rate thanks to UOB EVOL which is never going to hit the princely 8% cashback yield it advertises. That said, UOB EVOL still takes the lead with 6.67% effective cashback yield.

Suboptimal earn rate
All cards require an optimal balance between contactless and online transactions to achieve their best earn rates. In situations where you just spend all $600 in just one category (say you use contactless to pay for a $600 appliance, or spend $600 entirely online), FRANK gives a decent 4.17% rate, and the other two giving 3.33%.

This number is important if you want simplicity or just can’t spend nicely on both contactless and online categories effectively each month.

Realistic maximum cashback, and spend to reach this amount
UOB isn’t the only one making the word realistic work overtime. Both DBS and OCBC, along with UOB, advertise their cards as having more cashback capacity than they realistically should generate for the user.

DBS advertises a maximum cashback of $75 per month:

CategoryMaximum cashbackRealistic to hit?
5% cashback on contactless spend$20Yes
5% cashback on online spend$20Yes
5% cashback on sustainable spend¹$15Depends
0.3% cashback on all other spend$20No

OCBC also advertises a maximum cashback of $75 per month:

CategoryMaximum cashbackRealistic to hit?
6% cashback on contactless spend$25Yes
6% cashback on online spend$25Yes
0.3% cashback on all other spend$25No

UOB EVOL advertises $60 maximum cashback per month:

CategoryMaximum cashbackRealistic to hit?
8% cashback on contactless spend$20Yes
8% cashback on online spend$20Yes
0.3% cashback on all other spend$25No

All of the cards require you to spend an inordinate amount on an abysmal rate of 0.3% which is completely unacceptable. The realistic maximum cashback is hence the number that matters.

  1. DBS recently introduced a “sustainable spend category” which gives extra 5% on eco-friendly spends until the end of 2021. If you spend regularly at these merchants, DBS LiveFresh handily beats the rest. Bus/train rides via SimplyGo is the only thing I recognise, and as such the benefit of this category is limited for me.

Mobile payments

It’s a rather minor point, but DBS allows you to use your physical card to get the 5% earn rate, unlike OCBC FRANK or UOB EVOL. Given this extended era of face masks and Face ID phones, the convenience of a physical card may just sway one towards DBS, particularly for public transportation when you don’t have all the time to fumble with authenticating your smartphone wallet.

Online payments

This can be quite influential in one’s decision on which card to use. DBS is rather ambiguous on what online merchants get its 5% earn rates. Rather than publishing a list of excluded MCC, DBS provides a list of descriptions instead.

OCBC FRANK has been known to give its 6% earn rate on ipaymy transactions, and that is a really attractive rate to pay things like income tax, rent, or insurance with. The jury is still not out yet on UOB EVOL; I’m sure there’d be intrepid individuals who’d try and report their findings in the Telegram group.

Tracking

Despite being trounced on cashback rate (aside from “sustainable spend”), DBS does make things a bit more convenient by tracking the transaction date of your spending rather than the posting date. If you’re short of your minimum spend on the last day, you can always make a few transactions with your DBS LiveFresh card to meet the amount.

This is more difficult with OCBC FRANK and UOB EVOL as they go by the posted date, which usually means a few days after the transaction is posted by the merchant which we don’t have control over. This can take from a couple of business days to even a week, which means you might miss your minimum spend because the merchant takes too long to post the transaction. It can also mean that it is less convenient for you to meet your minimum spend towards the end of your billing cycle, although a few of us have crowdsourced merchants that post immediately for OCBC and UOB.

There are, however, situations where going by posting date is more useful. Say if you have met the maximum cashback for the month and it’s the last day of your billing cycle, making more spend on your OCBC FRANK or UOB EVOL so that you can push the transaction towards the next month is something that is possible with these two cards, but not for DBS LiveFresh.

Spend promos

While the periodic bank promo isn’t something we can guarantee, the ad-hoc rewards given by the banks from time to time can be very substantial.

For many months in 2020, DBS was running monthly promos giving a generous 8% additional rebate on spending on its cards. They are decidedly less generous now, with a few occasional promos targeted only at certain users.

OCBC also recently had a targeted spend promo for FRANK, and based on my experience with OCBC cards, they have been quite actively having campaigns to reward existing cardholders for spending on their cards.

I can’t say the same for UOB and I genuinely can’t remember the last time I’ve received a spend promo from them in the few years I’ve been their cardholder.

In any case, having multiple cards mean being able to better take advantage of these ad-hoc spend promos that happen from time to time.

Sign up

DBS
LiveFresh

New to bank
$300 Cashback
: make 1 qualifying spend within 30 days of card approval with no minimum spend

Use code MEGAFLASH

Until 12th July 2021

OCBC
FRANK

New to bank
$50 cashback^

Existing cardholders
$20 cashback^

^Make 2 qualifying transactions by the end of the following month

Until 31st August 2021

UOB
EVOL

New to bank
Receive S$150 cash credit with min. spend of S$1,500 on eligible goods and services within 30 days of card approval. Only for first 100 successful applicants who fulfil the spend criteria

Valid till 30th June 2021

Conclusion

These are three very competitive cards, and the good thing is that nobody is limiting you to choosing just one. Most people would probably find a way to juggle between two or 2three of the cards – using DBS LiveFresh when there is a certain promo, OCBC FRANK when spending for the month is higher, or even a combination of two or more cards when spending is even higher.

Personally, I’m using OCBC FRANK as my main due to its higher cashback cap, and DBS LiveFresh is my secondary card for overflow expenditure. While it would probably be replaced by UOB EVOL, DBS LiveFresh will definitely stay in my card collection for the spend promos that DBS doles out every now and then.

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